In a world where acquisitions and investments are being made non-stop, there are some companies that have what it takes to make a step back. About.Me had announced today that it’s once again independent, after buying itself back from AOL. That’s the best happy end an unfortunate start-up would ever get. After being acquired in 2010 by AOL for tens of millions dollars, two years later the company bought itself back for a fraction of AOL’s price.
AOL purchased about.me in 2010 thinking they might compete with Facebook, Google, MySpace and other social platforms. Unfortunately, they didn’t have what it takes to do this so about.me remained just an online identity Web site where people could create a profile and link to their Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.
It’s also clear that under AOL about.me could not go further and their co-founders did what it takes to make a change. If you read their announcement you’ll see that their vision is to expand about.me service into a place that defines a person’s identity online and being independent is the best way to get there. In a phone interview given to the NYT, Tony Conrad, one of the co-founders, said:
I think we can build it so much faster, and so much better, by making it independent again. There’s no obvious leverage in being part of the AOL media network, and there’s no synergy and integration.
People shouldn’t leave it to Google to define who they are based on an algorithm. Facebook is your social graph; Twitter your communications network; LinkedIn is great for people that have real accomplishments, but it’s not their real identity.
Another good news is that about.me will announce a $5.7 million financing round this week. Silicon Valley venture firms including True Ventures, Google Ventures, Founder Collective, CrunchFund and Ron Conway will invest their money, while AOL will still maintain an 8 percent ownership stake in the company.
And the good news don’t stop here because about.me co-founders promise they will focus to add new features that their users asked for (in forums, Twitter and face to face) and soon we should see some surprises.